Boston judge clears way for extradition of US student to answer St Andrews allegations

May 6 2013, 11.45amUpdated: April 16 2016, 4.23pm

The extradition of an American who allegedly poisoned a fellow student in St Andrews has been approved by a Boston judge.

Alexander Hilton, 21, from Massachusetts, could be brought back to face an attempted murder charge.

It is alleged he poisoned Robert Forbes, 20, by spiking his drink with anti-freeze while the pair were studying at the town’s university in 2011.

Mr Forbes, who is also from the US, spent a week in hospital after allegedly drinking adulterated wine before the New Hall Ball at the Fairmont St Andrews.

He suffered symptoms including loss of vision and needed hospital treatment.

Hilton can now appeal to a higher judge, and ultimately the US Department of State, for the ruling to be overturned.

Following the alleged incident, police sent a report to the fiscal in Cupar in “relation to an offence of culpable and reckless conduct”.

A warrant for Hilton’s arrest was issued by the Crown Office.

But lawyers for the Princeton man have claimed he suffers from severe mental illness and extradition could worsen his condition.

Delivering her ruling during a hearing in Boston on Friday, Magistrate Judge Jennifer Boal acknowledged those claims but said they would have to be made to the US Department of State.

The judge said she had to consider whether the US has a treaty with the UK that would allow for Hilton’s extradition, that the crime of attempted murder falls within that treaty, and that prosecutors demonstrated enough proof to hold a trial in Scotland. She found that those standards were met.

She said: “The decision to block extradition based on humanitarian grounds is solely within the discretion of the secretary of state.”

Hilton’s attorney Norman Zalkind said while he was disappointed with the ruling, he was grateful his client had been given 60 days to petition a US District Court judge to hear the case.

Mr Zalkind said Hilton had tried to commit suicide in the past and could make another attempt to end his life if the extradition went ahead.

He said Judge Boal had recognised Hilton’s “precarious situation”. But he feared that Hilton’s rights as an American citizen would not be preserved in Scotland.

At the time the alleged incident took place, on March 5, 2011, Hilton was studying economics and computing at St Andrews University.

He returned to the US less than two weeks later, just days after he was questioned by police. He has been staying at his family’s home in Princeton and was arrested in February under an extradition treaty the United States has with Britain.

Mr Forbes, who was studying international relations as part of a four-year degree course, had reportedly shared a bottle of red wine with friends in university halls.

Friends said he began feeling the effects shortly after arriving at the ball, but was not taken to St Andrews Community Hospital until the next day when his condition became more severe.

He was transferred from the community hospital to a larger city hospital where he stayed for several days before his parents travelled to Scotland to help him return home.

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